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Monday, September 29, 2008

Minneapolis cop admits sharing confidential info

Minneapolis cop admits sharing confidential info with informant; lawyer alleges entrapment Roberts' lawyer alleges officer was entrapped
By David Hanners -

A Minneapolis policeman admitted to the FBI that he twice provided confidential information to an informant posing as a member of the Gangster Disciples street gang, according to a copy of the officer's statement filed in federal court. In the April interview, Michael David Roberts, a 28-year veteran of the police department, told the agents that he knew that what he had done was wrong and illegal — and that it also was wrong to accept $200 the informant offered after Roberts provided the information. "I knew it was stupid, unethical and illegal to take the money," Roberts said in the signed statement. A separate report written by the two FBI agents who questioned Roberts hints at a wider investigation into corruption in the police department and notes Roberts refused to cooperate with any such inquiry.

"Do you guys honestly believe that I would ever give you that type of information?" the agents quote Roberts as telling them. The agents wrote that Roberts claimed he knew of no wrongdoing within the department. Also, "Roberts stated that he would not cooperate with the FBI in wiring up against any other police officers that the FBI believes may be involved in misconduct," the agents wrote in their report. "Wiring up" is law enforcement slang for equipping an informant with a recording device. Roberts' statement and the FBI report were among six exhibits introduced at a pre-trial hearing Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan;they were entered into the court file Wednesday. A federal grand jury indicted Roberts, 58, in July on two counts of deprivation of honest services wire fraud and a single count of unauthorized access to a protected computer. His trial is set to begin Nov. 3.


F. Clayton Tyler, the attorney representing Roberts, said he intends to show that federal agents entrapped the veteran police officer. "The government set this whole thing up, set my client up, lied to him, trapped him, entrapped him," Tyler said. "No matter what they say and what the reports say, and no matter what he said in his statement to them, it doesn't matter. If it wasn't for the government's involvement, he wouldn't be here. It's the government who started this.

"My client didn't look for this guy," Tyler said of the informant. "My client didn't ask for any money. The government set all this up." Working for the FBI, Taylor Winthorpe Trump, 47, posed as a member of the Gangster Disciples and met with Roberts twice in August 2007. At the time, Trump was under federal indictment for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. Less than a year later, federal prosecutors again charged Trump — this time with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money. Prosecutors say he was the mastermind of a mortgage-fraud scheme that may have defrauded people out of as much as $2.5 million. A week after he was charged in the fraud case, Trump signed a plea deal with prosecutors agreeing to "cooperate with law enforcement authorities in the prosecution of and in the investigation of other suspects." If prosecutors determine Trump has provided "substantial assistance," the government will ask that he get a reduced sentence.

He pleaded guilty to the cocaine charge and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Details of the plea bargain — including whether he agreed to cooperate with authorities — remain under seal in U.S. District Court. A report by FBI Special Agents David Kukura and Brian J. Kinney details the initial questioning of Roberts. The report says they had gotten Minneapolis police inspector Mike Martin to ask Roberts to deliver a package of documents to the FBI's Minneapolis office. When Roberts arrived at the office, though, Kukura took him into a conference room and told him they wanted to ask him about an investigation they were working on. The investigation, however, focused on Roberts himself. The agents said they asked him if he knew Trump, and when he replied that he didn't, Kukura showed him a portion of a video the FBI had secretly recorded Aug. 9, 2007, when Roberts met with Trump. Roberts explained he knew Trump only by the name "Valache," the report said; "Taylor Valachi" is one of the aliases that state records show Trump has used.


Agents filmed the video across the street from Pizza Luce in Minneapolis, where Roberts worked an off-duty job. The agents wrote in their report that the video shows Roberts using his police radio and that they later determined that he'd asked a police dispatcher to determine the owner of a particular car license plate. Roberts admitted making the radio call, but said he did so because Trump had said the owner of the car had tried to kill him, the agents wrote. The policeman said Trump handed him $100 "while telling Roberts to go out to dinner," the agents wrote. "Roberts stated that he did not feel comfortable taking this money from Trump but did not give it back to Trump." Roberts said that Ron Edwards, a longtime community activist who was then co-chair of the Police Community Relations Council, was dining at the restaurant at the time. Roberts spoke to Edwards about the incident and told Edwards that he couldn't keep the money. "Roberts stated that he gave the $100 to Edwards, who took the money and kept it," the FBI report says. Edwards could not be reached for comment Thursday. The agents also showed Roberts part of a video they filmed Aug. 14 in which Roberts used the computer in his squad car to look up a police report, then showed the report to Trump, who was sitting in the car. The report involved a man Trump claimed was trying to kill him. Roberts said that after Trump read the report, Trump handed him another $100.

"After viewing the video clips, Roberts admitted that he did something stupid, and stated, 'If I need to be charged, then charge me,' " the agents' report notes. Roberts said he told a fellow officer that Trump had given him $100, and the officer told him that Trump was a drug dealer and that Roberts would have to write a report about the incident and have the money inventoried in the department's property room. The policeman filed a report about his meeting with Trump but didn't turn in the money. He said that afterwards, he began to suspect that Trump had been working as an informant and was trying to set him up. He told the FBI agents that he considered coming up with five $20 bills to turn in to the property room but didn't because he figured the money Trump had given him had been marked by the FBI so it could be identified later. A week after Roberts gave the statement, Minneapolis Police Chief Timothy Dolan put the officer on paid suspension. Police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia III said Thursday the department wouldn't comment on the newly filed documents but said Roberts remained on suspension. David Hanners can be reached at 612-338-6516.

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